Editorial: Why not try a little calm and solidarity?


Posted by on Mon, December 17, 2007

A lot of Coastsiders are confused by the $37 million Yamagiwa decision. That’s not surprising. They’re being fed misinformation by people who know better. If you listen to Coastside property rightists, you’d think that this decision was a repudiation of the environmentalists.

That is nonsense.

Yamagiwa is not about whether the city of Half Moon Bay has the right to define wetlands, whether Beachwood contains wetlands, or whether the declaration of wetlands at Beachwood was a taking of property. That was settled in the city’s favor years ago.

Yamagiwa is not about property owners having their rights taken away by environmentalists.  The "taking" outlined by judge Walker was the creation of wetlands as the accidental consequence of actions by pro-development, pre-environmentalist Half Moon Bay city councils in the 1980s and 90s.

Coastside property rightists claim to have read the decision, but you wouldn’t know it from their analysis. The issue in the Yamagiwa case was the origin of the wetlands.  Ironically, the court says that the wetlands were created in the 1980s when the city was trying to make Beachwood and nearby property more developable.

It would be easy for for Coastside environmentalists to point fingers at sloppy city governments ready to grease the skids for poorly planned development. Instead, they’re calling for calm and solidarity, while the property rightists see this as an opportunity to flog their usual solutions.

County Coastside Water District board member Chris Mickelsen— who has personally harassed at least one planning commissioner —blames the planning commission that found wetlands on the property, but Judge Walker barely mentions that decision.

CCWD board member Jim Larimer—who writes periodically in the Review about why big developments are the answer to the Coastside’s problems—says that the city has come to these dark days because it doesn’t care about property rights. He couldn’t have come to that conclusion from reading the judge’s decision. The judge describes something that sounds more like incompetence.

Perennial city council candidate and gadfly George Muteff says that the city wouldn’t be in this fix if it had only fired the attorneys that had won the wetlands case two years ago, and simply capitulated in the face of another lawsuit as he advised when he ran for city council two years ago.

Meanwhile, the environmentalists are standing behind a city council that has rejected them. They’re saying the city councils they fought for decades didn’t create the wetlands at Beachwood for one simple reason:

The land has always been wet.

Granted, the judge didn’t accept that defense. Judge Walker spent most of the 167 pages of his decision explaining why he thought the city had created wetlands at Beachwood.

I have no opinion on the origin of unbearable wetness of Beachwood. What I can tell you is that knowledgeable people—from both sides of the political divide—who are familiar with Beachwood are saying that it was always wet and that the judge chose to ignore the evidence. It remains to be seen if that is a viable avenue for appeal.

What should the city do next?

Half Moon Bay can negotiate with a man who’s holding a gun to its head. I don’t see how that can end well. Do you?

Or they can fight.

The city and its new lawyers must still determine the cost and grounds for appeal—and the odds of victory—before they make a final decision. But it’s hard to believe that it’s not the best alternative.

The city of Half Moon Bay has some tough times ahead, regardless of how this turns out.

Each of us has to decide what we stand for: fighting for our community with calm and solidarity; or capitulating, second-guessing, and finger-pointing.


Not all of Beechwood is “wet”. In fact, using even the most stringent delineation made, there is still room for a corridor that could provide an alternate traffic route to relieve congestion at the Hwy 1/92 bottleneck.

This would not be favorable to the potential developers, but it would be to those of us who travel through this area. This is why CCF has brought this back as an opportunity to re-look at our options while there is still time.

A new delineation based on the City’s accepted LCP definition, revisiting the Pacific Ridge orientation, and solidifying a comprehensive plan can benefit the entire community, and possibly help the City at the negotiating table over this lawsuit.

It is an option worth considering, but to blanketly state Beechwood is “wet”, is all “wet”.


Comment 2
Tue, December 18, 2007 9:01am
Barry Parr
All my comments

That’s what the judge said.

The damages were based on the assumption that no houses at all can be built on Beachwood. If I remember correctly, Mr. Keenan was offered the option of building houses on the land, but decided he wasn’t being allow to build enough. 

If a highway can be built on the land, why not houses?

It’s also not clear to me how build this road would help the city’s money problem. After all, if they build a road instead of letting Keenan put up houses, they’re going to owe him the value of the houses he didn’t build, which is what they owe him now.

You’re right Barry. A road would mean less homes, but it could provide the traffic mitigation the Coastal Commision would be looking for, So, perhaps it does aid the developer(s). I think we are on the same page when we all say we are looking for solutions to this mess.

Another word for “Solidarity” could be found in “Mitigation”?

Comment 4
Tue, December 18, 2007 9:24am
Barry Parr
All my comments

I don’t agree with your preferred solution, but I don’t think you’ve been participating in the divisive behavior we’ve seen from other folks.

How do you see the bypass solving the city’s money problem with this decision?


Comment 5
Tue, December 18, 2007 10:57pm
Ken King
All my comments

Who would pay for Charlie’s road, especially if the usable part of Beachwood supports a road rather than homes? Goes without saying that Charlie’s counting on the Pacific Ridge folks to bail on their settlement with the City of Half Moon Bay and the Coastal Commission, but they’re not dumb enough to want to start through that process all over again—it’s already been twenty-one years and counting.

Charlie and I’ve argued about placement of Foothill before, with me saying the wetlands make it DOA, while Charlie defers to his SoCal experience in dealing with a compliant Coastal Commission he’s charmed before. That was then, this is now, and Foothill will always be a pipe dream. As the Starkist Tuna add used to say, “Sorry, Charlie.”

Today’s (12/19) SF Chronicle printed some reaction comments from readers, including a very clear analysis from HMB resident Ken King:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/19/BADPU0LIK.DTL&hw=READER+PLATFORM&sn=001&sc=1000  i

Comment 7
Wed, December 19, 2007 11:17pm
Frank Long
All my comments

I found this interesting site, which appears to have some seemingly contradictory information. More grist for the mill. http://ceres.ca.gov/planning/pzd/1998/subd_4_5.html